No, I’m not the first to push the importance of product/market fit.
There exists an endless sea of early stage company pundits, each preaching their own product/market fit gospel. From Andy Rachleff to Steve Blank and Andreessen Horowitz; many who are smarter than I am have highlighted the importance of product/market fit. To get a good lay of the land, Tren Griffin expertly summarized the key points from a variety of pundits in his blog post “12 Things About Product Market Fit”.
The point being, when it comes to product/market fit there is no shortage of expertise, classes, frameworks, strategies, and play books. Do a quick Google search for product/market fit and you will be quickly flooded by approximately 525,000 results.
So why am I throwing my hat into what is an already very crowded product/market ring?
In Griffin’s article, the word “marketing” was mentioned a grand total of 1 time by one of the much respected experts. Andy Rachleff, the current CEO and co-founder of Wealthfront and co-founder of Benchmark was quoted remarking “You know you have fit if your product grows exponentially with no marketing.”
And this quote got me wondering; especially in the context of B2B companies - is that actually true?
First, let’s take a look at what product/market fit really is. Again, that Google search would probably lead to another 525,000 definitions. But for me, one of the most straightforward and tangible definitions comes from Entrepeneur.com:
“Product-market fit is the point at which you have identified the best target industries, buyers and use cases for your product. Sales become repeatable and scalable, and your product is flying off the shelves. It is the holy grail for most startups -- one that dictates whether they are on the path to being the next 1-in-10 “10x” investment return companies for their investors or the next 3-in-10 flameout that crashes and burns out of business.”
After years of leading the marketing teams for early-stage companies and mentoring hundreds of companies, I’ve learned that the founders who successfully reach product/market fit had to have some degree of “market smarts.”
Founder and CEO of Swivel, Scott Harmon has it. Mike Maples having it is the understatement of the decade. But many founders do not. As a result, most early stage companies need marketing DNA injected directly into their founding teams.
And I have a hypothesis as to why.
Because the right marketing DNA provides a significant advantage to not only achieving product/market fit, but achieving it before your competitors do and before burning through your capital.
Hyper-focused, right-sized marketing strategy. It uncovers market needs, sniffs out the ideal customer targets and then finds and drives the conversation with your most attractive customers. It speeds progress to product/market fit.
Very seldom will you hear anyone mention the word “marketing” in the product/market fit stage. No one would dare even speak that word before finding PMF because they mistakenly believe that investing in marketing is nothing but spending too much money on growth too soon.
It’s time to change that trend. Right-sized marketing is essential to efficiently providing that critical product/market fit for early-stage B2B marketing companies. I’ll show you why in future posts.